Elliott Whitehead has emerged as the "backbone" of the Canberra Raiders' premiership charge in the eyes of Ricky Stuart and the Green Machine mentor has the numbers to back it up.
Whitehead has played more minutes than any other Canberra forward and in doing so has racked up six try assists - second only to attacking linchpin Josh Hodgson in the forwards department.
The 29-year-old is ranked in Canberra's top five for minutes played (first with 1726 of a possible 1760), tackles (second with 722), try assists (fourth with six), and offloads (fifth with 15) yet he has flown under the radar this season.
Those numbers elevate Whitehead above a host of teammates and a number of the Cronulla Sharks forwards he will lock horns with at Shark Park on Sunday.
Whitehead's arrival in 2016 coincided with the club's rise to premiership contention and his impressive form this season comes as the club looks to secure a top four finish for the second time in 16 years.
The versatile Englishman has become so impressive for Canberra that he can almost be taken for granted by many - but that is certainly not the case at Raiders headquarters.
"Elliott has probably been our most consistent player all season," Stuart said.
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"He does fly under the radar a little bit, he makes sure I know all about it though. He certainly doesn't let me have that line of thought.
"He really works hard on the field, he covers his teammate's backs so well, the boys love playing with him, [then there is] the defensive work he does with the way he pushes up off the football.
"Elliott is a very intelligent footy player and he knows his game pretty well.
"He'll have a big head now too."
The arrival of John Bateman and Ryan Sutton signalled a changing of the guard in Canberra's forward stocks and it is one that has the club on the cusp of ending a finals exile.
Whitehead and Raiders prop Josh Papalii have often been the ones leading the way with the latter emerging as one of the NRL's premier front-rowers for Canberra and the Queensland Maroons in the State of Origin arena.
In years gone by he has been left wishing for more to follow Papalii's lead - and that is just what the Raiders have found this year with a host of forwards rising to the task in a top four charge.
"We don't take Papa for granted. Papa has got some real help around him too with Sia [Soliola] and Nams [Dunamis Lui], they're our senior boys in the middle," Stuart said.
"They've been wonderful assistants to Josh this year. Papa, like Elliott, just consistently every week he has been aiming up.
"Those types of players are your backbone to a team. It's very much needed and appreciated."
Canberra's forward pack is bracing for one of their biggest tests against an emotion-charged Sharks outfit looking to send captain Paul Gallen out a winner.
The Sharks clash marks Canberra's fourth game against a top eight side in as many weeks and the 22,000-seat stadium is already sold out as the Sharks prepare to bid Gallen farewell in his final home game.
"It's a credit to Paul in regards to what he has achieved at the one club," Stuart said.
"It's no news that I'm good mates with Gal and I'm very proud of what he has achieved.
"He knows I don't like talking to the opposition before a game, he wouldn't be expecting me to give him a call but he knows I'm always in his corner.
"He has had a marvellous career and I just hope he doesn't win this one."
Stuart gave Gallen his first start in green and gold 13 years ago before the pair later linked up at club and State of Origin level.
Gallen has since played 32 matches for Australia, 24 for NSW and 345 for Cronulla - and from day one to now, "it all developed purely through hard work".
"He is one of the hardest trainers I have coached, he never takes 'no' well, he is a guy who is just an inspiration towards other players in regards to the way he drives himself and what he wants," Stuart said.
"He's got a lot of desire, Paul. You can see it in his boxing [where Gallen boasts a 9-0 record at heavyweight], when he has got his mind set on something he is very hard to hold back."
NRL ROUND 24
Sunday: Cronulla Sharks v Canberra Raiders at Shark Park, 2pm.
Raiders squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Bailey Simonsson, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Nick Cotric, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (C), 10. Sia Soliola, 11. John Bateman, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Ryan Sutton. Interchange: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Dunamis Lui, 16. Corey Horsburgh, 17. Hudson Young, 18. Sam Williams, 19. Emre Guler, 20. Michael Oldfield, 21. Tom Starling.
Sharks squad: 1. Josh Dugan, 2. Sione Katoa, 3. Bronson Xerri, 4. Josh Morris, 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo, 6. Shaun Johnson, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Jayden Brailey, 10. Matt Prior, 11. Briton Nikora, 12. Wade Graham, 13. Paul Gallen. Interchange: 14. Kurt Capewell, 15. Braden Hamlin-Uele, 16. Andrew Fifita, 17. Jayson Bukuya, 18. Billy Magoulias, 19. Blayke Brailey, 20. Kyle Flanagan, 21. Matt Moylan.